Tag Archives: Neal Caine

OUR THOUGHTS ARE OF NEW ORLEANS

This morning, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, and is proving to be a very terrifying storm — on the sixteenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I know some of my friends have found safe havens elsewhere, but I send these sounds out to everyone feeling the wrath of Ida.

Ironically, the apt sounds — melancholy but with a groove — were created almost a month ago, on July 25, 2021, at the Ear Out, 326 Spring Street, by the EarRegulars: Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass. The song? Hoagy Carmichael’s NEW ORLEANS, which I associate with Jimmy Rushing and Louis Armstrong, among others. Here it is, without words but with feeling:

I present it here as a prayer for durability and resilience of that “quaint old Southern city” and its people.

STROLLING ON SPRING STREET: The EarRegulars PLAY LOUIS FOR US — JON-ERIK KELLSO, JOHN ALLRED, JAMES CHIRILLO, NEAL CAINE (The Ear Out, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City, July 25, 2021)

There’s an immense Groove to whatever the EarRegulars play: think Louis and Basie having a good time together.

Yes, those two deities are posing for a photographer, but I imagine them grinning at the music made by the EarRegulars one Sunday afternoon, July 25, 2021 (although any EarRegulars gathering would produce the same response).

That Sunday, the EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass — lovingly playing Louis’ 1947 composition, SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY, which I think of as the sweetest song of reproach and revenge possible:

The EarRegulars have been appearing all summer at The Ear Out, details specified above, from 1-3:30 on Sundays. Have you been?

May your happiness increase!

ROMPING WITH The EarRegulars: JON-ERIK KELLSO, JOHN ALLRED, JAMES CHIRILLO, NEAL CAINE (The Ear Out, July 25, 2021)

Just plain magic.

Yesterday I shared a gliding performance of a Shelton Brooks classic, DARKTOWN STRUTTERS BALL, by Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass:

It was met with delightful enthusiasm: around 1800 views on YouTube in 24 hours. I don’t know how to explain this explosion of good taste, but it cheers me immensely. So, while we in the Northeast US wait to see what Hurricane Henri has in store for us, I’ve been playing the video of another Shelton Brooks hit loudly — to compete with the rain. The song is SOME OF THESE DAYS, which Sophie Tucker wisely made her theme song, and jazz musicians from the ODJB to Lee Konitz played it with pleasure — not to mention irreplaceable recordings by Louis, Bing, and Ethel Waters. Must be those minor chords!

This version positively romps: not just the solos, but the engaging interplay — how these masters listen to each other and conduct witty conversations in swing. Watch out for the humor in Jon-Erik’s solo (which starts low in the best 1929 Louis manner), John’s slippery epigrams, a magnificently surrealistic chord from James . . . and since the bass player is often taken as a supporting player, I urge you to replay this video to pay attention to Neal — walking the chords, improvising subversive melody lines while keeping the time right there, and his eloquent solo. Rare and uplifting sounds on Spring Street:

Thank you, Mister Brooks.

There’s more, but I didn’t want to overload anyone with spiritual exaltation. Except when there are hurricanes, The EarRegulars have been holding joy-meetings every Sunday afternoon outside the Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City, from 1-3:30. I hear tell that when the days get shorter and cooler, they will return to playing indoors on Sunday evenings, but I have no exact date for this transformation. Until then, get yourself there if you can.

May your happiness increase!

GLIDING WITH The EarRegulars — JON-ERIK KELLSO, JOHN ALLRED, JAMES CHIRILLO, NEAL CAINE (The Ear Out, July 25, 2021).

Doing that easy glide! Yes, it’s the EarRegulars, spreading joy once again — in front of The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York — on one of their Sunday afternoon spiritual- refreshment gatherings.

They are Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass. And this was the very first song of their July 25, 2021 performance.

Incidentally, the song was written in 1915 and published in 1917 by Shelton Brooks, the African-American (born in Ontario) composer who we also know for SOME OF THESE DAYS.

I have a sentimental attachment to this song: it was one of those my father taught me to sing when I was about 4, even though I doubt I knew what most of the words meant. Thanks, Dad, for a life where music is always restorative.

May your happiness increase!

SADNESS WILL BE GLADNESS, or THE JOYS OF SURRENDER: The EarRegulars Plus at The Ear Out, 326 Spring Street — JON-ERIK KELLSO, SHAYE COHN, JOHN ALLRED, JAMES CHIRILLO, NEAL CAINE (July 25, 2021)

Our culture celebrates victory, but sometimes giving in is the only way: this song dramatizes the surrender to love.

I SURRENDER, DEAR has an ache in its heart. (If you don’t know the classic versions by Bing and Louis, you owe it to yourself to visit them.) But sadness, whole-heartedly dramatized, is joy.

Thank the EarRegulars for this sustained burst of emotions, coming from The Ear Out (that’s located on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 3:30 in front of The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City). On July 25, 2021, they were Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass, with NOLA guest Shaye Cohn, cornet, joining them, adding to the collective lyricism.

If you can, and you haven’t participated in these Sunday-afternoon musicales, you are seriously missing out. And you wouldn’t want to tell the grandchildren that you were too busy with the Times puzzle, would you?

May your happiness increase!

SO RICH, SO RARE: “LOVER, COME BACK TO ME,” by the EarRegulars Plus — JON-ERIK KELLSO, JOHN ALLRED, JAMES CHIRILLO, NEAL CAINE, SHAYE COHN — at The Ear Out, 326 Spring Street (July 25, 2021).

James Chirillo, Shaye Cohn, in action.

Who could resist such a request? Thank you, Sigmund Romberg, of course.

John Allred, Jon-Erik Kellso, Neal Caine, showing us how it’s done.

And thank the EarRegulars for this sustained joy from The Ear Out (that’s located on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 3:30 in front of The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City).

Where it happens — on Sunday afternoons, 1-3:30.

On July 25, 2021, they were Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass, with NOLA guest Shaye Cohn, cornet, joining them. And here’s a masterpiece of chamber jazz, no exaggeration: solos, swing, ensemble telepathy, lyricism:

I’ve posted several other luminous performances from this session, with guests Jen Hodge, Josh Dunn, Rafael Castillo-Halvorssen, and Tamar Korn: THEM THERE EYES, IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT, and ONCE IN A WHILE. They don’t need explication, although they (and this burst of pleasures) remind me of someone from the UK — obviously deep into her own preferred variety of jazz — who used to comment on my postings, “Too swingy.”

She meant it as a criticism: I take it as the highest compliment.

The EarRegulars and friends deserve our most reverent thanks. And our physical presence: every Sunday afternoon from 1 to 3:30, at 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.

And a self-referential postscript: in some unimagined context, should someone ask me, “Michael, what have you done with your life? I understand you were a college professor for decades . . .” I would point them to videos like this as the achievements I’m most proud of.

May your happiness increase!

INSPIRED NONCHALANCE at THE EAR OUT by The EarRegulars and Friends: JON-ERIK KELLSO, SHAYE COHN, RAFAEL CASTILLO-HALVORSSEN, JOHN ALLRED, JAMES CHIRILLO, JOSH DUNN, JEN HODGE (July 25, 2021)

By the time I began to attend live jazz happenings in New York City, 1970, the block of Fifty-Second Street once known as “Swing Street” had lost its marvelous coloration: banks and stores now stood where for, about a decade, there had been a line of jazz clubs where one could hear the most magnificent music, with musicians playing not only their own gigs but visiting others’. Ben, Bird, Billie, Big Sid, Bechet, Big T — among a hundred others. All that remained was a few dozen photographs and some record dates that tried to simulate the energies that bubbled up every night.

But in 2007, when Jon-Erik Kellso started a Sunday-night residency at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, often with guitarist Matt Munisteri — the group was not yet called The EarRegulars — those sessions were the closest thing to Swing Street glories that I had ever seen, as the original quartet would delightfully grow with friends coming to add their voices to the swinging choir.

Since May of this year, Jon-Erik has been holding sessions outside The Ear Inn, and they provide the same emotional and aesthetic uplift. The music says in every note: We are not dead. We can still create joy. And we are happy to offer our wise feeling joy to you.

This happened again — most gloriously — on the afternoon of July 25 . . . a fairly quiet time in Soho, with many people having found some way to get out of the city. But those who remained in front of 326 Spring Street will, I propose, never forget what they saw and heard.

And the musicians were similarly transported: watching the performance that follows, please note the facial expressions of the musicians: Jen Hodge’s smile, James Chirillo’s approval, so evident, even behind the double mask. I’ve posted an exuberant sample from that day — the closing performance, THEM THERE EYES, featuring Tamar Korn — and here’s another wonder, James P. Johnson’s IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT:

They make it look and sound so easy, which is one of the marks of great art — what Castiglione called “sprezzatura,” or an inspired nonchalance. An extraordinarily lovely interlude by the EarRegulars plus guests, performed for all and sundry (did the passers-by feel the love as they trotted by?). The creators — bless them in long meter — are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; with Rafael Castillo-Halvorssen, trumpet; Shaye Cohn, cornet, Josh Dunn, guitar; Jen Hodge, sitting in for Neal Caine, string bass. Wondrous lyricism, a great feast of sounds for our ears and hearts.

I feel so much gratitude to them and their peers: I hope you feel it also.

May your happiness increase!

GREAT BIG EYES ON SPRING STREET: The EarRegulars, Irregularly — TAMAR KORN, SHAYE COHN, DANNY TOBIAS, JOHN ALLRED, JAMES CHIRILLO, NEAL CAINE, JOSH DUNN (July 25, 2021)

In front of 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City, a shrine for friendly music and more.

Wondrous music was made (to quote Fratello JLC) in front of the Ear Inn on Sunday, July 25. If you were there, you know. If you weren’t, you can see and hear a sample now — created by the EarRegulars on their penultimate performance of the afternoon, THEM THERE EYES, featuring the regular EarRegulars for the day, John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass, with irregular EarRegulars Tamar Korn, vocal; Shaye Cohn, cornet; Danny Tobias, trumpet; Josh Dunn, guitar.

Leader Jon-Erik Kellso and Rafael Castillo-Halvorsen, guest trumpet, sat this one out to not have an excess of brass – but you can imagine their grins. Oh, my!

Have you been? Joys await for those who can drop in. And there’s Sunday, August 1 . . . .

May your happiness increase!

JOYOUSLY CONNECTED: “BLOCK PARTY,” featuring DAN BLOCK, ROB BLOCK, NEAL CAINE, TADATAKA UNNO, AARON KIMMEL

Dan Block, Rob Adkins, Ehud Asherie at Casa Mezcal, October 25, 2015

Dan Block is high on my list of heroes — lyrical, inventive, quirky, passionate, expert, warm.  I could go on, but it would just be prose.  Better than prose is his new CD, BLOCK PARTY: A SAINT LOUIS CONNECTION (Miles High Records) which features him on tenor saxophone and clarinet alongside his very talented brother Rob, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass; Tadataka Unno, piano; Aaron Kimmel, drums.  And the subtitle?  Dan, Rob, and Neal are from the Mound City.  And it’s even more of a family affair: Dan’s daughter Emma did the artwork and photography; cousin Joe Schwab (of Euclid Records) wrote the liner note.  If you want further evidence of the eminences involved here, Andy Farber and Mark Sherman produced the session; Bill Moss was involved in the mastering.

Dan does so many things well — no, splendidly — that it would be foolish to expect that a CD of his would be monochromatic, although listeners will not feel an artificial reaching after “innovation” from one track to another.  But he brings a deeply felt intelligence to his music; his range is wide.  Consider the song list: DINNER FOR ONE, PLEASE, JAMES (which I associate with Marty Grosz and British dance bands of the Thirties); NO, NO, NO (by the little-known songwriter Phil Springer, who wrote SANTA BABY and HOW LITTLE WE KNOW — read about Springer here); LIGHT BLUE and SMOKE SIGNAL (unhackneyed jazz classics by Monk and Gigi Gryce, respectively); WONDERFUL ONE (by Ferde Grofe, 1922); CHANGES (Walter Donaldson, both associated with Paul Whiteman, the latter with Bix and Bing); BY THE FIRESIDE (a gorgeous Ray Noble melody); OPTION CLICK (Block’s own response to modern technology); THERE AIN’T NO LAND LIKE DIXIELAND (associated with Bix and Tram); IT WAS WRITTEN IN THE STARS (lovely Harold Arlen).

The song list might seem homage to Dan’s many working associations, from Twenties recreations to free-blowing contemporary jazz, but all of the performances are at heart  melodic, curiously inquiring of the music, treating the originals with love but not as museum pieces.  Dan’s spacious imagination does not pop compositions into stylistic cubbyholes (“This goes in the Hank Mobley section; this goes in the Harmony Records file”): the music is animated by affection and ease.

Although I’ve heard and admired Rob Block in person several times in New York, this is a wonderful re-introduction to his lyrical, swinging selves.  Like brother Dan, he is technically fluent, yet his phrases breathe and his solos have logical shapes.  He plays the guitar; it doesn’t play him.  Listen to the fraternal joy on WONDERFUL ONE, for one example.  The members of the rhythm section are spectacularly good in duo and trio and as soloists: I found myself listening to several tracks a second and third time to savor what they were doing, memorably uplifting.

As a player, Dan is . . . what superlatives do I write here?  He respects melodies but also adores surprises; he never plays a predictable phrase but takes us on his journeys — which are quietly thrilling.  I’ve known him as clarinetist, saxophonist, even trumpeter, pianist, and singer, for almost fifteen years now, and a Dan Block performance is something I cherish.  The casual but expert arrangements on this CD are also great gifts to us.  No piece goes predictably from ensemble to solos to ensemble; each performance contains splendid little landscapes, as solos give way to duets.  The result is often elegant but never slick.  I’ve been playing and replaying this disc, always with delight.  I would even suggest that listeners begin at the end, with the touching duet for the brothers Block on IT WAS WRITTEN IN THE STARS.  Obviously the title is true.

If you know Dan’s work, you will find this disc exceedingly rewarding; if he’s new to you, I guarantee you will have found a new hero.  BLOCK PARTY can be found here and here (with sound samples).

May your happiness increase!